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SAP ImplementationA successful SAP implementation takes time and investment. Done right, the results can be awesome for your business. There are some potential pitfalls along the way, however. Having worked with some of the world’s largest and most demanding SAP enterprises, we are able to recommend SAP best practices that can enable your organization to achieve the maximum benefit of SAP while enjoying a smooth implementation process.

Start with a business overview

SAP is software, so it’s natural for discussions about SAP implementation to focus on the technical aspects of SAP landscape. This is of course necessary, but SAP is business software and it is necessary to adopt a keen focus on business factors when implementing SAP.

Even if you’re on the tech side, remember what Marlon Brando famously said in The Godfather: “It’s strictly business…” He could have been talking about an SAP implementation. What looks like a technical issue may be rooted in business factors. Should you use SAP HANA as a database or continue to work with your existing database management platform? The answer will depend on factors like licensing costs, employee skill sets and so forth. If you’re an “Oracle Shop,” then it might be wise to keep Oracle in place, at least through the initial roll-out. Adding a database migration to an SAP implementation might be biting off too much and add to implementation timelines and expense.

What are you trying to accomplish?

SAP runs your business. Your SAP implementation should rest on the foundation of your most essential business goals and strategy. For instance, if your objective is to gain traction with more distributors to get your product into more stores, that goal should be the criterion by which every part of the implementation is judged.

What does your SAP landscape need to do?

SAP implementations can be complex. Think about what you need your SAP landscape needs to accomplish at launch. If you don’t have a clear sense of what you need, you may over-scope the implementation. Then, map out where you think you want your business to go and how SAP can support these future moves? That will be your basis for subsequent updates and extensions.

What type of implementation are you doing?

In our experience, there are two basic types of SAP implementation. A “Green Field” SAP implementation involves the installation and customization of a completely new SAP landscape. If you’re new to SAP, then you will be doing a Green Field by default. A “Brown Field,” in contrast, is an SAP implementation where you’re updating, replacing or migrating an existing SAP instance.

Again, it’s helpful to consider the business aspects of the Green/Brown choice. For example, you might decide it’s easier to start over again with a Green Field approach even if you already have SAP. Or, you might realize this is completely the wrong thing to do once you assess the choice from a business perspective.

Think through security, DR and compliance up front

Whatever you’re planning, it’s highly advisable to add experienced eyes to the plan to assess its viability for security, Disaster Recovery (DR) and compliance. For example, if you’re moving data to the cloud, are you going to violate data sovereignty or privacy laws? Will Segregation of Duties (SoD) controls still work if you change role-based access, and so forth.

Follow proven SAP implementation processes

While each SAP landscape will have a different path to completion, we’ve learned that the best results come from following a series of high-level implementation steps that start with project preparation and continue through go-live support. The Realization Step contains seven Realization Phases, as shown in the figure.

SAP Implementation Steps

The nuts and bolts of an SAP implementation occur in the “Realization” step. However, before you can get to realization, you need to understand your project objectives and business context and goals. For this reason, the first two steps we recommend are “Project Preparation” and “Business Blueprinting.” Then, after Realization (Detailed below), you can move on to the “Final Preparation” and “Go Live”

  • Project Preparation—Get ready to execute the project with an initial plan that identifies objectives, priorities and scope.
  • Business Blueprinting—Define the business processes that your landscape needs to address.
  • Realization—Use the business blueprint to build, test and refine your landscape. Here, the technical team and partners take a bigger role.
  • Final Preparation—Get ready for the migration and go-live, performing tasks like migrating your data and stress testing your system to make sure it’s ready.
  • Go Live—Follow the plan and switch your business over to the new SAP landscape.

SAP Realization phases

Once you understand your project plan and business needs, you can commence the seven steps of SAP Realization a.k.a. the technical portion of SAP implementation. While specifics will vary from organization to organization, our experience shows that it’s best to proceed on the following basis:

  1. Phase I – Onsite Initiation—The technical team reviews the project with key stakeholders to ensure all the elements are in place, covering questions like who needs access, and will there be third party application integration?
  2. Phase II – Data Center and Network Setup—If you’re doing SAP in the cloud, Network engineers work with you to build a VLAN to connect your location and their SAP cloud hosting environment into a single unit.
  3. Phase III – SAP General Activities—The technical provider continues to prepare for implementation by obtaining SAP credentials and downloading software from SAP.
  1. Phase IV – Sandbox Migration—In this first of several migrations, the sandbox migration includes a test migration representing the core landscape (without the ancillary systems identified in Phase 1).
  1. Phase V – Development Migration—This phase takes lessons learned from the Sandbox Migration and proceeds to connect non-SAP systems.
  1. Phase VI – Quality Assurance Migration—This is a dress rehearsal for production, making sure everything is ready for production. Quality assurance should be run like a production migration as much as possible.
  1. Phase VII – Production Migration—The team migrates the SAP landscape and goes live, a process that needs downtime during which you switch the business over from the previous landscape.

Choose the right SAP Partner

When followed, these SAP implementation best practices reduce risk and uncertainty. When you work with us, everything is rehearsed, refined and rehearsed again. We dislike surprises more than even you do. Symmetry offers a technical team with the experience and attention to detail to make sure everything goes smoothly at go-live.

Contact us to learn how Symmetry can help.

Dave Hall, Director of Professional Services

Dave Hall is the Director of Professional Services at Symmetry where he is responsible for on-boarding and managing many of Symmetry’s key and most complex Clients. Dave has been in the information technology business for over 30 years - managing teams responsible for everything from international systems implementations, SAP data center migrations and Basis managed services. Dave leverages his diverse experience to provide superior customer service to Symmetry Clients from the initial on-boarding process through ongoing steady state managed services.